Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Finding the Best Breast Cancer Surgeon

Research -- Not Doctor Referral -- Gets Women the Most Experienced Surgeons, Hospitals
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 16, 2007 -- Women who choose their own surgeon and hospital get better breast cancer care than those who rely on doctor or health plan referrals, a new survey suggests.

Most doctors who perform breast cancer operations are general surgeons who see many kinds of patients.

But studies suggest women who need breast cancer surgery have better outcomes if they see surgeons highly experienced in the kind of surgery they need.

In their study, Steven Katz, MD, MPH, and colleagues surveyed 1,844 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Katz is director of health services research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The researchers found that only a third of the women were treated by a high-volume surgeon -- one with more than 50% of his practice devoted to breast cancer surgery.

Two-thirds of the women were treated in hospitals designated as cancer centers by the National Cancer Institute or the American College of Surgeons.

Women who said they chose their own surgeon were twice as likely to see a highly experienced surgeon as were those referred by another doctor or by their health plan.

"Women who were more actively involved in selecting their surgeon were more likely to be treated by surgeons more experienced in breast surgery and in more comprehensive treatment settings," Katz and colleagues report.

"By contrast, the provider-based referral pathway was not associated with surgeon volume [in breast cancer surgeries]," the researchers say.

They advise women to get a second opinion -- especially if their doctor recommends a specific procedure without a full discussion of the options.

Katz and colleagues report their findings in the Jan. 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow